Orlando, Fla. - Kathy Ireland, wife, mother, CEO and chief designer of the $1.5 billion Kathy Ireland Worldwide (the 23rd most powerful licensed brand in the world), is now the brand ambassador for BrandSource, and made her first appearance for the group at The Summit, here, on Monday.
Ireland will be used in an advertising campaign that should break by midyear, as well as product exclusives for Brand Source, which could include "detergents, floor coverings and others ... products that are solution-oriented," Bob Lawrence, CEO of Brand Source, told TWICE.
But plans are sketchy at this point since Ireland just signed on two weeks ago and her involvement was only announced last week by the group. Initially BrandSource will be able to emphasize products that are already being carried by group suppliers like Bush, Shaw Living and others that carry the Kathy Ireland license.
Ireland called BrandSource "an iconic brand" in major appliances and CE. Lawrence said she was "kind to say that, and with her help, it will happen, but more work needs to be done."
BrandSource had been looking for a brand ambassador for a while and wanted "someone that made sense ... that matched our philosophy. We think with Kathy and the BrandSource brand our dealers will be able to connect all the dots and make a transition, make a quantum leap. If we can outsell and outperform the big-box stores, we can be an iconic brand."
Ireland can attract a younger demographic to BrandSource and more women to its member stores.
Ireland's philosophy is "finding a solution for families and moms," and her products' key demographic is 18- to 49-year olds with a slight drop off of 45. That is a clear improvement from BrandSource's demographic, whose most popular group is the 65-and-older crowd.
Ireland has been described as "a best friend to busy moms," and she noted, "If women buy our products, it's not about my name. If they know my name, from my modeling days in the previous century, they may know products we support, and when they like them we earn their trust. I always say our team -- that has been with me for 20 years -- has the toughest boss in the world, demanding moms."
And, she said in her remarks to BrandSource members, "Fame does not equal brand equity."
When asked about the perception that the CE and major appliance businesses are still a "good old boys" club, Ireland said, "When I got involved with the furniture industry I heard the same thing. I'm not afraid of working and communicating with the industry, and I'm not intimidated by electronics or technology."
In her role as brand ambassador, Ireland said she "hopes to learn a lot from [BrandSource] members to find out what they are looking for and what challenges they are facing."
And again, from her remarks to BrandSource members, Ireland said, "I am very competitive. We are here to win."
She added, "We want to get the message out there about fashion and quality. We want to sell home security and solar [energy] products with you. You are the biggest business of them all -- you provide service that the big boxes never can. They will never be able to compete with the independent retailer on that."
Comments like that must be music to the ears of embattled independent retailers especially after the economic downturn of the past 2.5 years.